LESLIE: Lynette in Louisiana is on the line with a warped floor at her house.
How can we help you today, Lynette?
LYNETTE: My home that I live in was built in 1940 and it is on concrete piers.
LYNETTE: There’s a differential crawlspace underneath the house, as little as 6 inches on the east side to approximately 2 feet on the west side.
LYNETTE: And recently, I had a pest-control professional do a wood inspection and determined, fortunately, that there were no termites. But in walking through my home, he noticed that my floors, which are laminate-covered, were warped and very soft in various areas throughout the house, which I’ve experienced – continuing to deteriorate in that fashion over the last three to four years.
He indicated, through his inspections, that he looked at the – underneath the house and noticed that there was wood rot and possible mold occurring. And I’m calling to see what can I do to rectify that and does that mean that I need to literally tear out the floor to remedy the situation?
TOM: Probably not. But did he prescribe – like did he give you an estimate for fixing the warped floor? Because sometimes these guys will do that: they’ll find a problem and say, “I’m just the guy to fix it for you.” Did he give you a number?
LYNETTE: No, sir. He simply came out to give me a state form for this wood inspection that’s necessary for a VA loan.
TOM: OK. So he sounds like he might be a decent guy, then.
So the next thing you want to do is try to get a sense as to how much decay, if any, is down there. And I think – I mean for that, what I would tell you to do is to contact a professional home inspector. Home inspectors don’t work for a contractor; they work for you. And they only represent the information, so they don’t have any conflict of interest in trying to identify – or make a problem sound like it’s bigger than it really is.
Sure, it’s not going to be unusual for a house in your part of the country to have some decay or some potential mold growing on it. But I want to get a sense as to how bad that is. Are the floor joists completely rotten? Is the subfloor rotten? How much mold are we talking about? If you’ve got a couple of feet on one end, then you can probably get pretty far into that. And then with a high-powered flashlight, you can work your way down as far as the eye can see. If it turned out that you had to do work on the warped floor, typically what you would do in that case is you would trench that area where the grade goes up to, as you say, 6 inches so that you can actually kind of go back and forth and work on that space.
Once we know exactly what’s going on, then we can talk about treatment options. And so, if there is actual decay and the decay is bad enough to warrant some structural repairs, then that would be done from the crawlspace. In terms of the floor itself, if that subfloor was really badly rotted, you would have to take that apart from the top. But if it’s not really that rotted and maybe you’ve just got a decayed joist or two, you may be able to make that repair from the bottom. Worst case scenario is you tear out all your floors but I think that’s really extreme. And I wouldn’t even think about that until I had a lot more information.
Now, the lumber can also be sprayed and treated to stop any decay or mold growth that’s going on right now. And then you could also – when you’re all done figuring out what caused this and what you’re dealing with, you want to make sure you get better ventilation in that crawlspace so that you don’t have this problem reoccur. Now, if you can’t get natural ventilation, you could use fans that are hooked up to humidifier switches – or humidistats, I should say. And they’ll come on whenever the humidity gets high and it’ll pull drier air through the house – through that crawlspace – to keep it from decaying any further.
So you’ve got a few steps in front of you on this warped floor, Lynette, but I would start by getting a good, independent home inspector to take a look at it. You can go to HomeInspector.org – that’s the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors – and start there. You are looking for an ASHI-certified member. That’s A-S-H-I – American Society of Home Inspectors. An ASHI-certified member. And they’ll give you some good advice and help you take the next step, OK?
LYNETTE: Fantastic. Thank you so very much. I appreciate the information.